宮村 浩子 さん
於・One UN Plaza (DC1 Building) 19階会議室
[This is the speaker's PERSONAL observations, and does not necessarily represent the UN or EAD's position.]
■１■ INTRODUCTION - Four misconceptions in the UN electoral assistance:
(1) Many people think that the UN is involved in electoral observation activities but that is a misconception - the UN prefers other organizations to conduct observation activities. Most of the UN's activities in the elections field are in technical assistance. When we give technical assistance, we cannot observe elections because it can lead to a conflict of interest.
Another reason why the UN rarely conducts observation is because wthe UN needs a mandate from the SC or the General Assembly. Moreover, declaring the freeness, fairness or the credibility of the elections could be politically sensitive and the UN could come under undue political pressures that we would rather avoid.
We do not believe electoral observation is meaningful unless it is done long-term; that is, not just observing the polling day and the announcement of the result. We strongly believe that to do proper observation, the entire electoral process needs to be observed, including the voter registration period, the campaigning period and the electoral adjudication period. We would like to emphasize that election is not just an event but a process.
If somebody wants to rig the elections, it could be done much earlier than the election date. It could be done through the voter registration process by disenfranchising a lot of voters; it could be done during the campaigning period, or during the candidate nomination period when authorities could intimidate political figures and discourage them from participating in the electoral process; it could also be done through the shutting down or the intimidation of the media, so the voters could not have full information on what kind of platforms the candidates have.
Elections can actually be held in a very peaceful manner on the polling day,, during the counting and tabulating of ballots and when the results are announced. But a lot could happen before the actual elections take place. Therefore, electoral observation of one or two weeks around the election date could be a very superficial exercise.
(2) Secondly, many references are made to UN [electoral] standards, but so far there is no such "UN standard" in elections. What we do is to refer to "international standards", and even then, the only reference point is the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights - The Covenant, talks about the necessity for regular elections, the necessity of wide enfranchisement of the population, the necessity of the people to be able to choose there own leaders, etc. Those are the only real international standards there are that are recognized by the Member States.
(3) Even if an election is conducted well technically and operationally, it does not necessarily make the election "politically credible". There are many elections that are technically well done, but fails politically because they are not accepted by the people. Judge Kriegler, the Chief Electoral Commissioner for the South African elections in 1994, likes to give the example that the 1994 elections in South Africa, which brought about the end of apartheid, had many technical problems, but everyone accepted the result of the election and the political process. In the same year, Mexico spent a lot of money and had a "very good" election in an operational/technical sense, but people did not accept the results of the elections. (The same could be said of the Mexican elections of 2006.) The Electoral Assistance Division emphasizes that elections are an inherently political process, not a technical exercise.
(4) Lastly, we/the Electoral Assistance Division also dispute the argument that many people make that elections bring about democracy. What elections bring about is legitimacy to the people or the government that gets elected, but they do not necessarily bring about democracy.
Democracy should not just be about elections, but also about separation of powers, a system of check and balances, functioning of rule of law institutions and respect for human rights. Nevertheless, many politicians and including some of the leaders in the UN system like to say that "because we had good elections, now this country is on the road towards democracy". This is too simplistic, and we have to raise awareness that elections do not necessarily bring about democracy but rather legitimacy to whatever person or group of people that is elected.
■２■ The role of elections and the UN's electoral assistance in peacekeeping operations:
Why is the UN involved in post-conflict elections? Elections are often part of a peace agreement or a post-conflict transition timetable that the UN is often asked to help implement. That is why many PKOs have an electoral component. Explicitly or implicitly, the negotiators of the peace process expect the UN to play a role in the elections - partially because we have a good track record in assisting in the conduct of elections in a PKO/post-conflict context.
The other reason why we are involved in post-conflict elections is because the local authorities either lack the capacity or legitimacy to conduct elections. UN involvement in an electoral process brings legitimacy because the UN is seen as impartial and has the capacity to assist the electoral process.
It is very rare for the UN to get a mandate to actually organize and conduct an election. The only cases are Cambodia in 1993; the popular consultation (referendum) in East Timor in 1999; the constituent assembly election in East Timor in 2001 and the presidential election in East Timor in 2002. Otherwise, at least on paper, the national electoral authorities have conducted the transitional elections in peacekeeping/operation contexts, and the UN assisted these national electoral bodies. In a number of cases, though, the UN has de facto conducted the elections, although all electoral policy decisions are made by the national authorities and we work side by side with the nationals to conduct the elections and provide capacity-building to the extent possible.
There is the issue of the timing of the elections - whether the transitional elections are held too early or too late. Oftentimes UN does not have much say in the timing of the elections because it is usually outlined in the peace agreement. There are cases where the national players or local conditions do not allow the elections to take place on time; But there is a lot of pressure usually from the SC to keep to the timetable outlined in a peace agreement.
In Liberia, many people thought that the election should be delayed and that a constitutional review should take place before the elections. At the same time, a number of corrupt and distasteful characters were in the transitional government who tried to reap as much financial benefit from their positions in government. The SRSG, the American Ambassador on the ground and ECOWAS, which mediated the peace agreement, were therefore very much against delaying the timetable and allowing these corrupt people to continue to abuse their positions (e.g., by giving logging contracts out to companies that were willing to bribe these officials). Despite the fact that there were very good reasons to maintain the electoral calendar, I personally thought that the constitutional reform process should have taken place prior to the elections because once the government is elected, that government would usually not feel the urgency to amend the constitution. The UN and the international community will have less or no leverage to positively influence some politically sensitive issues regarding the constitutional review once a legitimate government is in place.
In East Timor; some argued that elections should be held earlier because it was unhealthy to have the pseudo-colonial UN administration running the country making important decisions on behalf of the Timorese. Whereas others, such as the Church, thought that the UN should stay on for 5 years or so so that other democratic institutions could be built and the people could be more educated about the meaning of elections. But the UN chose the middle course, or rather, stuck to the SC preference not having the transitional period go too long.
■３■ What the Electoral Assistance Division (EAD) does in assisting in elections in a PKO context:
Once a PKO is set up, EAD sends a needs assessment mission (NAM) to the field to strategize on what assistance the UN should provide. We also propose the structure for electoral division in the PKO and shortlist candidates for all the electoral positions in the PKO.
The NAM meets as many stakeholders as possible, such as political party and civil society representatives. If there is no national election commission, we encourage that it be established as soon as possible. The preference is for a commission that is independent from government or political parties, - a commission that is comprised of "respected figures of the society." There are usually two types of national elections commissions: (1) independent (eminent persons of the society); (2) with representatives of all the political parities .
There are pros and cons to both models but the preferred model is (1). For example in Afghanistan and Iraq, there was no commission so the UN assisted in establishing national election commissions in those countries.
It is often desirable to create the commission from scratch because the UN could encourage independent figures to be part of the commission, or else it could be very difficult to work with an election commission inherited from a previous regime since to change the staff of the commission could be difficult, as many of them tend to be politically biased, or lack the capacity to conduct proper elections.
As the process progresses, EAD continuously gives policy, administrative and/or operational guidance to the people in the field; we also coordinate the various views expressed, including of course those of the SRSG.
■４■ Key electoral issues in post-conflict situations:
Need for a national electoral authority that is seen as impartial: if electoral authorities are seen as politically biased, however technically good the electoral process, the perception of partiality can make it difficult for the people (and certainly the political actors) to accept the results of the elections.
Capacity-building of national electoral authorities: Elections are a very difficult operation to conduct, and requires huge logistics and operational capabilities, including adequate communications systems and infrastructure. In a country with inadequate roads, no telephone lines, and lack of experience, conducting credible elections is a huge challenge. Many electoral authorities which lack experience are unaware of the enormity of the job, and the international advisers end up doing a lot of the work, although the UN tries to ensure that electoral policy-making (if not the electoral operations themselves) are done by the national electoral authorities. Technical assistance is given in both the policy-making and operational areas.
Widespread illiteracy: Civic and voter education is critical in efforts to hold credible elections. People need to understand why elections are held, what their responsibilities are as voters and as candidates, what they need to do to register as voters and what the voting procedures are. If people cannot read, the only way to reach out to people is either through TV, radio or face to face contact. There are many countries where electronic media such as TV is only available in the capital city, and even radio coverage might be severely limited. Large peacekeeping operations try to establish a UN radio station to provide impartial information to the population, but this is a very expensive undertaking, since the UN will have to set up radio towers and repeaters, which is very costly. The UN has also undertaken radio set distribution in remote villages. Even then, face to face communication might be the only way to reach many rural populations. We try to use local musicians, or theater groups, or civil society organization to help out on voter education.
Lack of infrastructure, including electricity. As stated above, this is a huge challenge, and the UN PKO ends up providing all the communications (phone lines/satelleite connection; radio; fax; internet; vehicles; air support/helicopters; road repairs) and other operational support (warehousing; procurement of electoral material; building of regional offices). Things become worse during the rainy season; in Liberia, porters were used to carry by foot electoral material to polling centers since vehicles and helicopters could not reach these areas; it sometimes took two to three days to reach polling centers by foot. In Cambodia, elephants and other animals were used, since vehicles could not be used. The problem is when the PKO leaves, most of these infrastructure is also gone, and the national electoral authorities are unable to conduct similar elections. DPKO and EAD (with UNDP) will need to think of how to conduct elections in a PKO context that could also be conducted after the PKO leaves - which is very difficult since in many PKOs, the UN and the SRSG wants to conduct "successful" elections, so the pressure is on the UN to use all its available resources to conduct the elections, regardless of whether these resources will be available in future elections after the PKO is gone.
Lack of data - there is lack of data on population figures as well as on administrative boundaries and accurate maps. Compounded by this is also lack of documentation to prove citizenship, age, etc. To conduct elections, one needs to know how many eligible voters are where, unless elections are conducted in one single national constituency. If elections need to be conducted under the first-past-the-post system or even in proportional representation within electoral constituencies, boundatires are often delimited according to administrative boundaries. Without these, new and contentious delimitation of electoral districts will need to be conducted. These are required so that electoral authorities have a good idea of how many electoral material needs to be distributed where. The less accurate this information is, the more costly and problematic the electoral process becomes. In post-conflict situation, we often have to rely on witness statements (usually the village chief or religious leaders of the community) to determine voter eligibility. In post-conflict countries, due to lack of documentation to prove age or citizenship, the voters register cannot be expected to be highly accurate.
Gender-mainstreaming in elections. We try to be very gender sensitive in our activities, since usually half or more than half of the electorate are women. We try to come up with plans for voter registration, polling and voter education that are taylored to reach women as much as possible. On the polling day, if there are women with children, or pregnant women, we bring them to the front of the line. In Afghanistan; we had separate registration and polling booths for women, and allowed women who did not want to be photographed not to be photographed.
Creation of a level playing field: Successful electioneering unfortunately often requires candidates and political parties to have sufficient funding. In post-conflict countries, this limits "strong" contenders to those who have access to financing, and could leave out many others who might have good platforms, but no funds. At times, this can mean one or two dominant parties. If there is only one (or two) dominant parties, in reality, we wonder if this is truly "multi-party" elections. There are also a number of political parties which are not democratically run (e.g., party leaders not chosen through internal elections). Many are one-man parties, relying on the charisma or influence of the party leader (who are invariably men). Therefore, increasingly, the UN is looking into capacity-building of political parties as well as establishing political party resource centers to materially assist all political parties equally, (without giving any financial support) so that there is some "leveling" of the playing field.
Number of political parties contesting elections. Some SRSGs and electoral commissions and other national authorities tend to want to limit the number of political parties contesting elections. It is true that having over a hundred parties contesting elections means that ballot "papers" turn into "ballot booklets" at times (such as was the case in DRC). Some also argue that having "too many" political parties contesting elections will "confuse" the electorate. While these arguments could sound "reasonable" at times, EAD feels that in the post-conflict situation, particularly in countries where "democratic" elections have not taken place for decades (or none at all), as many political voices and as much political participation as possible should be encouraged, not discouraged. Regulating the number of political parties through legislation and law enforcement can at times lead to the limiting of political freedoms, and in any case, the countries in question often lack the audit and enforcement capacity in the first place. Better yet, the electorate can decide which political parties survive or not. If political parties capacity-building sessions are conducted (by the UN or other organizations such as the National Democratic Institute or the International Republican Institute), "good" political parties will soon learn that forming alliances and coalitions will give them a better chance of winning elections in countries where there is a proliferation of political parties (eg., Iraq).
■Q■ On July 18-19, a election will be held in DR Congo. What do you think about the process in DRC with regard to the impartiality, timing, and democracy?
■A■ I have not followed the process in DRC, so I cannot really answer your question. DRC and Haiti are probably the two most difficult cases. Expectations are that minimally acceptable elections are held as people don't expect any outcome close to perfect. Given the size of DRC, the PKO mission is very small. Whereas a more minimalist approach has been taken in DRC, maximalist approach was taken in the UN's electoral assistance in Liberia. 16,000 troops were deployed in Liberia (17,000 in DRC, a country over twenty times? the size of Liberia) and over 170 electoral staff was deployed in Liberia, a country with 1.5 million estimated voters (in DRC, over 20 million estimated voters). Although the SRSG and the US wanted the UN to organize the elections in Liberia, EAD opposed the plan as we believed that the election had to be conducted by the Liberians. This idea was supported by ECOWAS and the AU.
■Q■ What about the timing of election in the case of Iraq? Who decides the timing? Why did you choose rainy season in Liberia?
■A■ In Iraq, the US government wanted to have the election before the Presidential election in the US. This was also the case in Afghanistan. In Timor-Leste, the timing was decided by Timorese political leaders and the SRSG. In Liberia, the constitution stipulated that elections had to be held in October (which happens to be the rainy season). This timing was seen as desirable also for the political actors.
■Q■ But how you decide whose voice should be heard to have legitimacy in the election? If the local parties and authorities in conflict pushed a timing and methodology, whose voice should be heard?
■A■ We try to listen more to what the nationals of the country are saying so that the people feel they have ownership and a voice in the process In voter registration we usually required documentation to prove the eligibility of a voter such as age and nationality. However, since there rarely existed birth certificates or other documentation in a post-conflict country like Liberia, the Liberians fiercely objected to this requirement; we accepted having two witnesses such as Imam or village chiefs as the sole means of proving voter eligibility, over the objections of the SRSG. The SRSG and others said having no documentation to prove eligibility did not meet "international standards", but in this case, we thought the views of the Liberians were more important for the credibility of the electoral process.
There was another big dispute in Liberia with regard to the choice of electoral system: the choice was between the American/British system of first-past-the-post, or Proportional representation system (hirei daihyou sei). The American system was too complicated to organize, creating 64 constituencies (senkyo ku), which required a delimitation exercise.. Proportional representation is an easier system to conduct and more representative than the first-past-the-post system, but parliament was against the use of proportional representation because Liberia was used to the first-past-the-post system. Several workshops and presentations were made for the discussion. The only time Liberia used proportional representation was in 1997 and they (wrongly) associated Charles Taylor's election victory to the proportional representation system. At the end of the day, we had to agree to using the first-past-the-post system, since that is what the Liberians wanted and we did not think "imposing" the proportional representation system was condusive to the Liberians accepting the electoral process and results.
■Q■ Democracy is such an important issue, though not many people or donors pay attention to it.
■A■ Democracy cannot be built in an electoral process or two, but takes at least generation or two to be established, if not much longer. As stated before, an election is not the only component for democracy. Rule of law, a functioning judiciary and police are the critical components, too.
■Q■ How do you demarcate the responsibilities between DPA and UNDP? Who decides the impartiality of election?
■A■ The UN will not conduct electoral observation unless the Security Council or General Assembly approves this. There are many other organizations that conduct electoral observation and make judgements on the conduct of the elections.
Regarding the demarcation of responsibilities between UNDP and DPA in electoral assistance, there is an official "note of guidance" that spells out the division of labour between the two entities, but there are some gaps in the note and the note needs to be updated. The procedures spelled out in the note is not always followed, and in a number of cases, there could be better coordination between DPA and UNDP. Usually, DPA conducts the needs assessment to decide whether and how the UN should provide electoral assistance, and then UNDP develops the project document if UN involvement is deemed desirable, and in accordance with the recommendations made in the needs assessment.. In post-conflict situations, UNDP's role may be large or small.. UNDP has its strength in donor mobilization and flexibility in use of its funds. In Afghanistan, UNOPS played a big role in the elections.
Elections has become a multi-million dollar business, which also makes it attractive for UNDP to get involved, since UNDP Country Offices are evaluated in a large extent to how much funding they raise, and elections is often a fast and easier means of mobilizing donor funds.